To begin with, I had this duty trip to check a solar power mini-grid in the most south inhabited island of Indonesia: Rote Island, part of East Nusa Tenggara Province. The plan was to stay in the island for two days but the high-tide decided differently. We stuck in the island for seven days instead. Nothing scary nor was I exposed to any danger, but there is a story I’d like to tell you.
To give you a bit an overview, the district has more than 119 thousand population with majority of electricity provided from a diesel power generation plant. The electrification ratio is only 30% where over 8000 solar pico system are installed in most coastal residences. The district only has one bank (BRI) and no gas station anywhere on the island. Fuel (gasoline and diesel oil) is sold by small local vendors (packaged in bottles) that cost around 30% higher. During bad season, the fuel can cost seven times more expensive than the price at official gas station.
We went to a small village called Lidor. It is situated in the southern part of the island about three hours car ride from the district capital Ba’a. We had the luxury to stay overnight in one hamlet and observed how they live.
This hamlet of less than 100 households never experience having electricity before the solar mini-grid installed. They used kerosene lamp for lighting and they literally lived in the dark since forever. Well, except when they collectively arrange some kind of party or celebration in which they collect money to fuel a diesel genset.
Most of them are farmers and they really depend on this unsteady source of income. When I asked how much they earn in average per month, they can only come up with IDR 250,000 or USD 25 or less than 1 dollar a day! They rarely spend their money on food since they eat basically what’s available in their garden. But well, the cut a chicken for us that day for our dinner and lunch.
Every afternoon around 4pm the ladies come out their houses with buckets or bottles or a traditional container made of leaves to collect water for shower, washing and cooking. Other than that they have a deep-well that only works once a week against a fee of IDR 20,000 per month.
They live a very simple life. They live a poor life.
You know what?
- On the other side of Rote Island, there is a beach known as a surfing paradise where some foreigners have their villas to enjoy comfortable life. The most famous villa has an extremely expensive rent up to IDR 18 million per night!
- The ferry is operational once per day (return Kupang – Rote) during good weather and normal tide. It costs IDR 165K (USD 16) for VIP class, IDR 125K (USD 12) for executive class, and IDR 40K (USD 4) for the rest of passengers. The boat trip takes 2 hours one way.